The nation’s pundits are surmising in their whiz-kid way that retired Gen. Wesley Clark’s candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination has been instigated by some mysterious stratagem devised by the Clintons.
I suppose the thing is possible. Yet a more plausible explanation for this glamorous candidacy is that the telegenic general has been inspired by the California gubernatorial campaign of Arianna Huffington. She is an inspiration to all such luminaries of the Kultursmog. Watch for the General to come down hard on SUVs, as Arianna has, and to sniff at “big money in politics,” as Arianna has from her Hollywood redoubt.
When it was discovered a short while back that Arianna had only paid $771 in federal taxes over the past two years, despite having taken her former husband for millions in divorce court, I had expected her to plead that such was the plight of a single-parent mom under kapitalism — and she did.
In his first week as Democratic candidate, Gen. Clark has shown himself to be a ham on the same sublime plain as his model Arianna Huffington. Out there in California when Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy, Arianna, then already a candidate, wandered dreamily up to him and knocked his microphones over. My guess is that it is only a matter of time before Dr. Howard Dean is similarly accosted by the drop-dead beautiful Gen. Clark.
On cable news the other day, one of New York magazine’s taste potentates confided that one of Gen. Clark’s imperishable political assets is that in “small groups” he is “funny.” It is an indication of the essential frivolousness of the Kultursmog that its intellectualoids recommend a general who is “funny” for the presidency. Did anyone ever say Gen. Grant was funny, or Ike, who, by the way, was the rare general who proved to be a tolerably good politician?
The Kultursmog is the media culture that dominates American politics and tastes except when elections are held. It is polluted by liberal politics and values. It allows for such politically negligible figures as Gen. Clark to become persons of moment. Come to think of it, Arianna’s eminence owes much to the Kultursmog.
My guess is that the air is going to go out of the general’s candidacy rather soon. Perhaps it will be reported that the handsome general served briefly after his retirement from the army as an underwear model Calvin Klein. Or he will bomb on the Bill Maher television show trying to match his exemplar Arianna’s hairstyle.
Seriously, Gen. Clark like most generals has a low opinion of politicians, which he has already demonstrated to the peril of his brief campaign. Generals are usually impatient with the tug and pull of politics and the dissimulations.
Gen. Clark, who reportedly once voted for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, has had a fleeting friendship with Bill Clinton. Now he seems to think all politicians are liars. He has taken the measure of the Democratic field (which has a large number of liars) and concluded he can compete with it easily in terms of posturing and mendacity. Within a matter of weeks he has told at least three lies and been caught out every time. Mr. Clinton can get by with that kind of a record, but not a retired general.
There was his false claim that the White House importuned on him to link the September 11, 2001, terrorists to Iraq. Then he revised his assertion, claiming it was a Canadian “think tank” that importuned on him. The think tank could not be identified. Then he told supporters he would have voted for entering the Iraq war. When that upset some of them, he reversed himself saying he “never” would have voted for the war. Finally there is the flap over Karl Rove. Gen. Clark claims that, after September 11, Mr. Rove repeatedly failed to return calls to him from the general. Mr. Rove has no record of such calls.
What are we to make of the fantasy that is the presidential campaign of Gen. Wesley Clark? My suggestion is that the liberals have finally found their very own Gen. Douglas MacArthur. That “old soldier” who told us that such venerable figures “never die; they just fade away” aroused derision and horror from the liberals in the early 1950s. This one wanted to put massive numbers of troops in Kosovo in the 1990s and to fire on a Russian contingent a decade after the Cold War had ended.
Now he tells us we have acted imprudently in liberating Iraq and sobering up the Middle East where terrorists not long ago thought they could attack America with impunity. He would have us act there today as President Bill Clinton acted in the 1990s, setting the stage for more fury against America in the future. He will in time fade away, but his mighty rise in the liberals’ esteem demonstrates their desperation.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.